Saunders shines with hills to climb

The Stawell Athletic Club’s oldest runner, Gary Saunders, defeated one of the newest in the five kilometre Stephen Baird Handicap on Saturday, and then offered some helpful hints to runner-up, Michelle Dunn, who is still to break through for her maiden win.

The Bonnie Dundee course on the edge of the Ironbarks is notorious for its one kilometre climb to the finish but it holds no fears for the seventy-seven-year-old Saunders who is accustomed to training there.

“I learnt when I was pushing a wheelbarrow full of mud uphill from a dam that you have to take in as much oxygen as you can before you push,” the durable greybeard said to all who listened.

“I do the same whenever I am faced with a hill like this one. Just before the climb I suck in a few deeper-than-usual breaths and it seems to invigorate me and gives me momentum.

Two weeks before his latest win, Saunders, in rare form, had won the Stawell and Ararat Cross Country Club’s eight kilometre Lindsay Kent Memorial which features a two kilometre long haul to the finish.

“I’ve always run well on hill courses because I train on them. On hills, I can actually make ground on younger runners which surprises me as much as them,” he said.

Saunders had received up to eighteen minutes start from the elite backmarkers but he still held a 1.18 minute margin over Dunn, the leading chaser, who remains on the doorstep of her first win after three consecutive seconds.

Fast improving last start winner Rebecca Hurley finished third ahead of Kate Field and Jess Cass with just over a minute separating all four females in the race.

In the one kilometre Sub-Juniors race Nate Lyons was rewarded for turning up for every race this season and enjoyed a narrow win over promising debutant Eva Hurley and the consistent Chloe Hunter.

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